Cleopatra’s father was known as Ptolemy XII. Her father was also
known as Auletes or the Piper because he played the flute. But just
like the Ptolemy era before him, her father’s reign was filled with
greed, corruption, and hard labor. The manner in which he ruled his
empire did not offer very many benefits to the general public. This
of course made him very unpopular; however, he ensured that his
children were well taken care of in spite of his harsh rule over his
Ptolemy XII had six children and all his siblings enjoyed Egypt’s finest luxury. He provided his children with the best foods and with clothing of the highest quality. In addition, his children attended the fanciest ceremonies and banquets. Although he spoiled his children to the utmost of his ability, he also believed that education was very important; therefore, he ensured that each child had his/her own tutors. They were also provided with servants to oversee their every need. Because of this attention to education, Cleopatra studied philosophy, literature, art, music, medicine, and was able to speak six different languages. These languages were Aramaic, Egyptian, Ethiopic, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. Being very educated, she soon learned of all her political surroundings and of her father’s status and power he had as pharaoh. Because of this education and knowledge, Cleopatra as well as her siblings, longed to be in power and to control.
The palace was filled with Ptolemy’s children and they all were very ambitious. This was not safe because they all wanted to be in power and no one could be trusted. Cleopatra knew that many of her family members were killed by relatives so she had to make sure that she kept a close watch on all the people that were close to her. Because there were no laws governing who the next ruler or pharaoh would be, Auletes would have to choose one of his children to rule after his death. Of course, the tradition of choosing the next pharaoh added tension to the relationship of all the siblings and relatives and all those who were willing to do whatever it took to attain the throne.
While the siblings at the palace of Alexandria were competing for the throne, Rome was expanding its territory and the three most powerful generals (Julius Caesar, Cnaeus Pompeious Magnus (Pompey), and Marcus Licinius) were on their way to creating history. Auletes feared that one day the mighty soldiers of Rome would bring their armed forces to Alexandria and that the Ptolemaic Dynasty would end. He was also afraid that Roman laws and taxes would be imposed on the citizens of Egypt.
Because Auletes did not want to lose his throne to the Romans, he devised a plan to ensure his rule. Auletes went to Rome and asked Caesar and Pompey to recognize him as the legal ruler of Egypt and to proclaim him a comrade and ally of Rome. Both powerful rulers agreed to do this; however it came at a high cost. This was to cost Auletes 6,000 talents. He didn’t have all the money to pay such a large sum so he borrowed from a wealthy Roman. After he borrowed the money, the plan fell through and soon he discovered that there were several plots devised to destroy him. He knew that he needed more help so he returned to Rome for help. It was during this trip that the oldest daughter, Cleopatra Tryphaina (Cleopatra’s older sister), seized the throne.
Auletes was outraged but he was also desperate and he needed help. He found a well-known Roman named Aulus Gabinius, who agreed to restore his kingship, but only at a high price. This would now cost him 10,000 talents. While on his way to recover his throne, Cleopatra Tryphaina was killed and overthrown by her sister Berenice. This proved to be a fatal mistake because she was quickly overthrown and executed by Auletes followers. So both of the women were killed and Auletes restored his reign. Auletes was only to keep the throne two years after regaining it as he died in the spring of 51 B.C. His will stated that Cleopatra, who was 18 at the time, would marry her brother Ptolemy XIII. Ptolemy XIII was only ten years old at that time and they were to rule together.
It was said that Cleopatra’s intelligence far outweighed her looks.
According to Plutarch, a Greek essayist and biographer, Cleopatra
was supposedly an irresistible person by her conversation and it was
written that she was a bewitching character. It was said that she
was a pleasure to be around, but because she was not considered to
be a beauty, she had to rely on her intelligence to get to the top
of the power chain. In addition, she had to come up with a plan to
remove her ten year old brother from power.
Because her brother was only ten at the time he could easily be influenced. However, he had three crooked advisers at his disposal. They were Pothinus, Achillas, and Theodotus, and all three also wanted to control Egypt. Each of these advisors helped him make the daily decisions for Egypt and they also influenced him in many ways. They especially influenced how he was to rule Egypt. Pothinus was the person who managed the guards as well as all the servants. The servants included maids, cooks, and gardeners. Achillas commanded the Egyptian army and Pothinus taught the boy public speaking. All three of his advisors hated Cleopatra and would stop at nothing to remove her from power because they all wanted the power for themselves. It was to their benefit that Ptolemy XIII be the sole pharaoh and that Cleopatra be taken out of the picture altogether.
It just so happened that during Cleopatra’s first two years as queen, the Nile did not flood and therefore things were not as plentiful. Citizens in Alexandra were suffering from famine and this caused rebellion among the people. Of course, Pothinus found a way to blame Cleopatra for these hard times in Egypt and this helped to spread many lies about Cleopatra throughout the kingdom. Soon, the citizens were holding her responsible for all their turmoil. The odds were now against her and the people began to hate her. Her brother and his advisors were also out to destroy her. She soon left for Syria and gathered a small army where she planned to someday return to Egypt and again reclaim the throne.
Meanwhile, the three Roman leaders (known as the Triumvirate)
soon came to an end. Crassus died in Parthia fighting while Pompey
and Caesar turned against each other. This conflict between the two
remaining men led to a civil war that was won by Caesar at Pharsalia
in Greece. Caesar, who defeated his friend, became the world’s most
powerful man. Pompey and his army, accepting defeat, sailed to Egypt
seeking help. Achillas, Pothinus, and Theodotus saw another
opportunity when Pompey arrived. They planned to murder him hoping
that this would gain Caesar’s appreciation and he would help them
wipe out Cleopatra.
Achillas, Pothinus, and Theodotus saw another opportunity when Pompey arrived. They planned to murder him hoping that this would gain Caesar’s appreciation and he would help them wipe out Cleopatra.